Pebble Beach, CA Knee Replacement Costs Facing Scrutiny : A $550 Billion Cost For Medicare Each Yearby Richard Kuehn on 09/26/12
We've read a lot recently about problems with hip replacements, specifically the defects found in metal-on-metal devices which are failing at an alarming rate. Now comes news that total knee replacements are causing big problems. Not for the recipient, thankfully, but for the government because of their high cost. The wider use of knee replacements is good news for seniors as it can make them more mobile and reduce pain, but "it can be viewed as another strain on government, individuals and businesses struggling with unremitting growth in health care costs," the authors of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote. "People are living longer and want to be active. They feel great after this," said lead author Peter Cram, a physician at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. However, he said the challenge was to address post-surgery problems and to ensure that doctors aren't overusing what he called a "highly reimbursable procedure." Unfortunately, as Medicare continues to cut costs, there is going to be a continued battle over how to cut medical procedures in order to cut expenditures. I hope this decision remains with the patient and their physician. I would hate to live in a world where a government employee were the one making decisions about my medical care. A knee replacement surgery costs $15,000, and about half of the 600,000 done each year are on Medicare recipients at a cost of $550 billion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those are big numbers. However, I find it hard to believe that doctors are ordering knee replacement surgeries for patients that don't need it. I do, however, agree with the study's recommendations that say doctors must address preventable things which could stave off knee replacement surgeries being needed. This would be done by things like reducing obesity and developing better arthritis treatments to prevent patients getting to the point where it is so bad it requires surgery.